Journal of Applied Mathematics and Physics
Vol.2 No.7(2014), Article ID:47227,14 pages DOI:10.4236/jamp.2014.27080

Simplex Optimization and Its Applicability for Solving Analytical Problems

Anna Maria Michałowska-Kaczmarczyk1, Tadeusz Michałowski2*

1Department of Oncology, The University Hospital in Cracow, Cracow, Poland

2Faculty of Engineering and Chemical Technology, Cracow University of Technology, Cracow, Poland

Email: *

Copyright © 2014 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).

Received 14 April 2014; revised 14 May 2014; accepted 21 May 2014


Formulation of the simplex matrix referred to n-D space, is presented in terms of the scalar product of vectors, known from elementary algebra. The principles of a simplex optimization procedure are presented on a simple example, with use of a target function taken as a criterion of optimization, where accuracy and precision are treated equally in searching optimal conditions of a gravimetric analysis.

Keywords:Simplex, Simplex Optimization Procedure

1. Introduction

Simplex is a geometric figure, formed on the basis of points in the n-dimensional space, i.e., a number of the points exceeds the dimension of the space by one. These points are referred to as the vertices of the simplex. Distribution of the points in this space is represented by a matrix of this simplex. Specifying the coordinates for is easy if it concerns the or space, but it becomes less comprehensible when the issue concerns the n-dimensional simplex. Although in the literature [1] one can find ready-made forms of the simplex matrix in space, but information on how to receive it in an easy manner is lacking.

The simplex concept is the basis for the Nelder-Mead [2] simplex optimization procedure (SOP) [3] , conceived as a modification of the simplex method of Spendley, Hext and Himsworth [4] . The SOP is easy to use, and does not require calculation of derivatives [5] [6] , as in the gradient (local steepest descent) method [7] [8] ). The SOP is widely applicable and popular in different fields of chemistry, chemical engineering, and medicine [9] . Furthermore, it works well in practice on a wide variety of problems, where real-valued minimization functions with scalar variables are applied.

The sequential simplex method is considered as one of the most effective and robust methods applied in methodology of Evolutionary Operation (EVOP) experimental design [10] -[15] . The SOP method was implemented in MINUIT (a Fortran from CERN [16] package), then in Pascal, Modula-2, Visual Basic, and [17] . The iterations are stopped when the function minimized is less than a preset value.

In this article, the problem of obtaining the simplex matrix in space will be presented on the basis of the triangle and the scalar product concept, well-known to the students from earlier stages of education. The evolution of the simplex according to SOP [3] [18] will also be presented in a understandable manner.

2. Simplexes in 2-D and 3-D Space

In order to introduce the simplex concept, we start from the point, (I) segment, (II) equilateral triangle, and (III) tetrahedron concepts, known from the elementary geometry. The, , , (and generally) notations express the dimensionality of the corresponding geometrical entities (Figure 1).

The points:, , are vertices of the triangle; the points:, , , are the vertices of the tetrahedron. is one of the edges of the triangle; is one of the edges of the tetrahedron. Equilateral triangle is one of walls of the tetrahedron.

Segment, equilateral triangle, and tetrahedron can be presented in the same scale; it means that all distances, equal to unity (chosen arbitrarily), between the (neighbouring) points and of a polygon are assumed, i.e. the length.

All angles between edges of the equilateral triangle are equal to 60˚. All angles between adjacent tetrahedron edges are equal 60˚ too, owing to the fact that all the tetrahedron walls are composed of equilateral triangles. By turns, tetrahedrons form the walls in polygon, etc. It means that all angles between adjacent edges of a symmetrical polygon are equal 60˚, as well.

The equilateral triangle can assume different positions on the plane. A particular case is the triangle with unit edges, “anchored” at the origin of co-ordinate axis, as one presented in Figure 2.

The successive vertices of the equilateral triangle can be presented in matrix form, where the rows are expressed by co-ordinates of the corresponding points:


The second and third rows of this matrix are identical with components of transposed vectors: and, respectively:

The tetrahedron can assume different positions in space. A particular case is the tetrahedron anchored at the origin of co-ordinate axis as one presented in Figure 3.

The successive vertices of the tetrahedron can be presented in the matrix form:


The second, third and fourth rows of this matrix are identical with components of the transposed vectors:, and, respectively:

Figure 1. Equilateral triangle and tetrahedron.

Figure 2. The equilateral triangle with unit edges and points:;;.

Figure 3. The tetrahedron with unit edges and;;; .

3. Simplexes in n-D Space

The segment, equilateral triangle and tetrahedron are imaginable concepts. However, application of the concepts involved with geometric figures of higher dimension is beyond imagination. One should be taken into account that, in the simplex optimization, we are forced, as a rule, to consider higher number of factors influencing the optimizing process.

Although the figures in space (Cartesian co-ordinate system) are beyond imagination, one can present them in projective space. In Figure 4, any pair of points of the simplex is connected, informally, by a segment (line); the segments (sides, edges) are marked there with broken lines. Particularly, two points form the simplex in space. Adding a third point (that not lies along the segment or its extension) gives a triangle (simplex) in space. Adding a fourth point in space (not coplanar with simplex plane), one obtains a tetrahedron (simplex), etc. Generally, adding a successive -th point, do not lying in surface formed by simplex, one obtains the simplex. In other words, adding the successive point that not lies on (or in plane of) simplexes of lower dimension and connecting it, every time, with the remaining points, one can imagine the simplexes with larger and larger dimensions, in projective space.

Figure 4. Formation of consecutive dimensions (up to) of a simplex in projective space.

Let us assume that the polygon is “anchored” in n-D-space in such a manner that is in the origin of the co-ordinate axis and any successive point “enters” the new dimension of the n-D-space, see Figure 4. It means that the co-ordinates of the corresponding points of polygon are as follows:


This means that for.

As stated above, the number of vertices exceeds, by 1, the dimension of the space; it means that the polygon in space involves vertices.

We consider a pencil of n unit vectors, , all starting from the point

, i.e., origin of co-ordinates of space and ending at the points. One should notice that the basic components of the vector starting at the origin of co-ordinates, are identical with co-ordinates of the point. Then for the vectors based on the points specified in (3) we have:


Let us construct the matrix (Equation (5)) composed of the co-ordinates of the corresponding points in space:


Moreover, we assume non-negative values for the coordinates, i.e., and then the elements of the matrix can be specified as follows:


Let be the unit vector along the i-th axis, Xi, i.e.. The vectors form a set of mutually orthogonal vectors in space. The scalar products:


where is the Kronecker symbol.

Any vector in space can be also written as; . Then the scalar product of two vectors, and, in space is as follows:


where is the angle between vectors and spanning the simplex in space. The angle between different vectors and of simplex equals [rd], i.e.

and then, for any pair of the vectors and: in triangle, in tetrahedron. Moreover, and then. If the unit vectors

are assumed, i.e., , then from (8) and (4)-(6) we have:



From (9), (10) and (6) we get, by turns,

, i.e.

and so forth. On this basis, one can write:



The elements of the matrix (Equation (5)) are thus derived with use of principles of elementary algebra and geometry. Then the simplex can be written in the form


One can notice that hj (Equation (15)) is the height of symmetrical simplex and (Equation (16)) is the radius of sphere (for—circle, for—“normal” sphere) inscribed in simplex. Moreover, we have the relations:


where Rj is the radius of sphere circumscribed on simplex, see Figure 5.

In particular, for, the matrix (Equation (13)) has 7 columns and 8 rows.


4. Translation and Reflection of the Simplex

A simplex can be translated and/or rotated in space. Particularly, the simplex defined by (Equation (13))with the centre at, can be parallely shifted to the centre of the co-ordinate system. This way, one obtains a new matrix


Figure 5. Graphical presentation of, and in space (Equations (11) and (12)) for.

with and as ones in Equations (11), (12) and (14). Reflection of particular vertices of the matrix in the centre of co-ordinate system gives the simplex described by the matrix


where—identity matrix.

The positions of the simplex presented in Figure 6 (in space), obtained from (I) by translation (II) and mirror reflection (III) in the origin of ordinate axis, are presented by matrices: and: (Equation (21) for and

Note that the number of walls in simplex equals to the number of point subsets (walls) generated from the -point set. From the elementary theory of combinations it results that the number of k-D walls equals to the number of possible combinations of items taken at a time, i.e.


Particularly, simplex (tetrahedron,) involves triangles (walls), edges (segments, 1-D walls) and points (vertices, walls). Generally, the simplex consists of: vertices of the virtual solid stretched on them, edges, , of walls opposite to particular vertices.

5. Simplex Optimization Procedure (SOP)

The simplex method, based on the simplex concept, is considered among the most efficient optimization procedures, successfully applied in different areas of optimization techniques and chemical analyses.The simplex concept is applicable, among others, for optimisation of analytical methods [13] , e.g. for searching the conditions

Figure 6. The simplexes obtained after successive (II) translation and (III) reflection of the original simplex (I) in the center of co-ordinate axes in space; for details—see text.

securing optimal accuracy and precision of an analytical method.

5.1. An Objective Function

The simplex concept is applicable, among others, for optimisation of analytical methods [13] . The variables, (scalars), named as factors forming the vector, affect the variable, named as objective (“target”) function, i.e.,


The essence of optimisation is inherent in the objective function. Accuracy and precision are among the most important criteria of analytical methods. Another object functions are related to sensitivity of a method, efficiency of a chemical reaction, etc.

Let us assume that an analytical method aims to find the conditions securing true contents of an analyte in a sample to be obtained. For this purpose, the following criterion (objective function)


has been suggested [19] , where:



were calculated in the -th simplex point, (Equation (3)), on the basis of measurements of an intensive variable (e.g. number of grams of an analyte contained in a unit mass of solution); is the true value of this variable, obtained according to a reference method. In the object function (20), both terms, i.e. accuracy and precision, expressed by standard deviation, , are considered nearly equivalently; the difference in “weights”: and, of the two characteristics of the method becomes less significant at higher values.

The function (20) is an example of superposition of different characteristics of a method, i.e. accuracy and precision. The optimisation is terminated when the systematic error is insignificant, i.e., the inequality


is fulfilled; is the critical t-value of the Student’s t-test at degrees of freedom, on probability level pre-assumed. In particular, for, i.e., we have, and then Equation (23) has the form


5.2. Decision Variables and Arrangement of Experimental Conditions

The optimization procedure assumes:

1) Selection of natural decision variables, , as independent (in principle) individual factors affecting the values of the objective function (Equation (19)) and 2) Their order,.

The number of the variables chosen defines the simplex dimension.

The kind and the number of these variables that assume continuous (not discrete) values, consisting the vector, affects the success (efficiency) of optimisation process aiming to get optimal (maximal or minimal) value for the object function, e.g. minimal value for defined by Equation (20). It should be noted that the simplex matrix (Equation (5)) refers—in principle—to orthogonal (independent) variables. The independent variables assuming continuous values are, among others: pH, temperature, time, rate of an operation.

One should be noticed that the form of the matrix (5) enables to add a new variable, , to the set of n variables assumed at the start for optimization—provided that the decision of inclusion of variable into the set of variables has been undertaken after measurements done in the points, at, where remained unchanged. In this case, the measurements done at the points has not to be repeated.

5.3. Design of Experiments and Optimization within the Starting Simplex

The introductory step of the optimization procedure assumes fixing the starting values, , and steps, , assumed for; these values affect strongly the efficiency of the optimization procedure. Some constraints put on and values (resulting from physicochemical, chemical or technological reasons) can also be taken into account. These constraints may result e.g., from limited solubility, possibility of phase change affected by temperature, etc.

The optimization is realized there for values of natural variables calculated from the formula


where enumerates successive experimental points realized within the initial simplex. The advised values for in (5) are defined in the matrix (13) and specified e.g. in the matrix (15) if. The values, obtained at points of the initial simplex are the basis for its further evolution of the simplex.

5.4. Optimization at the Points of Evolving Simplex

At the first stage of the simplex evolution (Figure 7), a point with the worst value, , for the object function (Equation (20)) is indicated,. The point is replaced by a new point,

, obtained by reflection of in the centre, , of the remaining points of the initial simplexi.e., in wall not containing the point. In other words, is the middle point between and, i.e.,


After adding the term to both sides of Equation (26), we obtain the co-ordinates of the new point, ,


After measurement(s) done at the point, the values are compared again within the new (evolved) simplex (containing and not containing) and the point with the worst value, is chosen. Then is reflected in the centre of wall of the new simplex (not containing). This way, a new point is obtained and further operations are repeated again, in cyclic manner. At -th reflection one can write

Figure 7. Evolving simplex in space.


In the example presented above, the initial (symmetrical) shape of the evolving simplex is maintained owing to the fact that 1) mirror reflections are applied and 2) equal statistical weights are assumed to all the simplex points considered. Sometimes we are forced to move the simplex within a constrained component space [20] .

The evolving simplex approaches the quasi-optimal region, where values do not change distinctly. In this region, the evolving simplex should be contracted or diminished (Figure 8); such operations enter e.g. the MINUIT program. The contraction/dilatation and weighting are involved in the relation [21] [22]


where the parameter α results from re-parametrization of the a line passing through 2 points: one of them is, the second one is the centre of area of -th, simplex, defined as follows


where the operator means summation within -th simplex (excluded). The contraction or expansion and weighting (“weights”) different points deforms the evolving simplex gradually. As a rule, it is not an advantageous occurrence during the optimization procedure, however. The simplex deformation is influenced mainly by the weighting factors [23] . Moreover, a shape of response function may sometimes cause the optimum searching impossible, even in space.

6. Example of SOP

To illustrate the principle of SOP, a simple example of gravimetric analysis is considered below. The matrix expressed by Equation (15) was chosen for initial simplex, and Equation (20) was applied as criterion of optimization. measurements were made at each simplex point. In our case, the relation (24) is chosen as the criterion of optimization. Analyses were made with CdSO4 solution of, standardised according to electrogravimetry, considered as the reference method.

6.1. Analytical Prescription

The samples, ca. 5 mL of the solution, weighed on analytical balance (±0.1 mg), were taken for analysis. The samples were treated with tartaric acid (0.220 g/mL) solution and then with 2.51 mol/L NaOH solution. After dilution with water, the solution was treated with 8-hydroxyquinoline (HL) solution (3.00% m/v, in ethanol) added dropwise from burette, with defined rate of addition. The mixture was leaved for defined time on the water-bath for re-crystallisation of the precipitate CdL2 at defined temperature, then filtered, washed with water, dried to a constant mass at 105˚C and weighed.

Figure 8. (a) The contraction, reflection i expansion of the vertex of the simplex ABC on the edge BC; and (b) Diminution of the simplex.

6.2. Decision Variables

Z1—re-crystallisation time [min] of the precipitated;

Z2—mass [g] of tartaric acid added in the solution;

Z3—volume [ml] of NaOH added;

Z4—volume [ml] of 8-hydroxyquinoline added;

Z5—rate [ml/min] of 8-hydroxyquinoline addition;

Z6—temperature [˚C] of water bath where re-crystallization of occurs;

Z7—volume [ml] of the solution before precipitation.

For example, the value [ml] refers to variable; the related value. For and, from Table 1 we have.

6.3. Results of Analyses within the Initial Simplex

The simplex optimisation procedure was realized in experiments performed in all points of the initial simplex (rows in Table 1). In each point, measurements were done. The results mik[gCD/g] are presented in Table2

On the basis of the data in Table 2, the values were calculated (last column in Table 1).

As results from detailed calculations done on the basis of results in Table 2, the inequality (23) has not been fulfilled within the initial simplex and then the evolution of the simplex was needed.

Referring to the Table 1, the worst result within the initial simplex was obtained at the point. During the simplex evolution, this point was reflected in the centre of the remaining points of the starting simplex. Referring to Table 1, we have, for example,

At the point, the condition (24) has not been fulfilled as well, and further evolution of the simplex was required. The worst value within the new simplex was stated in the point. Further calculations referred to the new point are exemplified below:



Table 1. The values for zij assumed in points of the initial (columns 1-7, rows 0-7) and evolving (columns 1-7, rows 8-10) simplexes. For all points, the values were obtained on the basis of measurements.

Table 2. Results of measurements done within the initial simplex.



The coordinates of the new points:, and for evolving simplexes, calculated with use of the coded variables specified.

The optimisation procedure has been terminated at the point, where and variance were found on the basis of 4 measurements and then the inequality (24)

was fulfilled and

6.4. Optimal Prescription

On the basis of the optimization procedure, one can formulate the following prescription.

The samples, ca. 5 ml of the standardised CdSO4 solution, weighed on analytical balance (±0.1 mg), were taken for analysis. The solution was treated with 2.80 g of tartaric acid and then with 7.9 ml of 2.5 mol/l NaOH solution. After dilution with water up to ca 90 ml, the solution was treated with 7.7 ml of 3% (m/v) 8-hydroxyquinoline solution (added dropwise from burette, with the rate 1.4 ml/min. The mixture was leaved for ca. 90 min on the water-bath for re-crystallisation of the precipitate CdL2 at temperature 63˚C, then filtered, washed with water, dried to a constant mass at 105˚C and weighed.

7. Final Comments

In this paper, the simplex method has been presented in terms known from elementary algebra and geometry. On the basis of scalar product and length of vectors in normalized scale, the co-ordinates of simplex vertices in space were determined. A criterion of optimization, where accuracy and precision of measurements were considered equivalently, has been suggested.

The simplex method was considered as the most efficient among optimization procedures, applicable in simulating procedures realized in recursive computer programs used for simulation purposes and in optimization of analytical procedures. The simplex method requires only one additional experiment, regardless of the number of factors being varied. This drastically reduces the number of experiments required to reach the optimum.


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